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Poetry is Home to Brett Ann Stanciu
Every year, the Vermont Arts Council brings young poetry-lovers together from all around Vermont to compete in Poetry Out Loud. Contestants recite poems both classic and contemporary, from Longfellow to Ada Limón, and are judged by a panel of accomplished local artists and teachers.
Last week we held the 2020 semifinals at the Barre Opera House, and the statewide championship is this Monday, March 16.
The following thoughts on the place of poetry in our lives are by 2020 Poetry Out Loud judge Brett Ann Stanciu.
Brett originally published this piece on her website, Stony Soil Vermont, on March 6 2020, a day after judging the semifinals:
“This Offering” by Brett Ann Stanciu
After a day of high school kids reciting poetry, I hold up in the Barre public library. Not far from me, a man unscrews a plastic bottle of sweet tea and mutters to himself. Abruptly, I pause my frantic emailing and wonder if I’m speaking to myself, too.
It’s March and sunny, and the snow has melted — not entirely, but a noticeable amount — since this morning. I’ve left my jacket in the car, as if daring myself to complain about this breeziness-with-a-promise-of-spring in my thin dress.
My head is still filled with poetry, and with the people I’ve met today who, in one way or another, bend their lives around writing and art — people who fashion meaning from the sometimes jagged stuff of this world.
Like libraries, poetry has always been a home to me, filled with the things of the world that both amuse and enchant me — like the man laughing at some secret only he might understand, and myself, staring out the window at a little girl in muddy black boots, digging through the soggy snow with a snapped-off stick, searching for treasure.
I am offering this poem to you,
since I have nothing else to give.
Keep it like a warm coat
when winter comes to cover you,
or like a pair of thick socks
the cold cannot bite through,
I love you…
— Jimmy Santiago Baca
A writer and sugarmaker, Brett Ann Stanciu lives with her two daughters in Woodbury, Vermont. Among many other things, she works at KidsVT in Burlington, Vermont, gardens in the few possible Vermont months, and manages to read a few books, too.
Brett’s novel, Hidden View, a gritty story woven with family, farming, and the desire for redemption, was published by Green Writers Press in the fall of 2015.
Poetry Out Loud is a national competition for high-schoolers created by the National Endowment for the Arts and the Poetry Foundation. Now celebrating its fifteenth year in Vermont, Poetry Out Loud has inspired hundreds of thousands of American high school students to discover and recite by heart classic and contemporary poetry.
Participation in Poetry Out Loud begins at the classroom level around the country. Teachers engage students through instruction in poetry and performance and organize contests involving one class or a whole school. Winners advance to the state finals, and ultimately to the national finals in Washington, D.C. Contestants choose and learn about poems from an extensive online anthology of classical and contemporary poetry while mastering public speaking skills as well as building self confidence.
In Vermont, the program is administered by the Vermont Arts Council and supported in part by a generous grant from the George W. Mergens Foundation. Local sponsors include Northfield Savings Bank and Fothergill Segale & Valley, CPAs.